University of Michigan RoboSub Team

Michigan Robotic Submarine (Michigan RoboSub) is a student-led engineering team at the University of Michigan that has been competing in the annual international RoboSub competition since 2020. From the hull, to the circuits, to the code, we develop as many aspects of the submarine in-house with the goal of creating a submarine that is entirely our own. Our mission is to advance autonomous underwater vehicle technology, cultivate individual member growth, and develop opportunities for future Wolverine Success.

At Michigan RoboSub, we welcome students from all backgrounds, experience levels, majors, and class-standings to join our team in engineering an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that can perform various sub-nautical tasks. These rigorous tasks include autonomous navigation, targeted torpedo launches, and component manipulation. More specifically, the team aims to equip members with the skills necessary to succeed in their future careers through hands-on design experience. From the hull, to the circuits, to the code, we develop as many aspects of the submarine in-house with the goal of creating a submarine that is entirely our own.

Our electrical team members work on designing, manufacturing, and testing PCBs for the submarine, while also writing the boards’ firmware whenever they are equipped with on-board processors. In some cases, we use printed-circuit boards (PCBs) to re-organize our robot wiring, while in other instances, we use them to amplify signals, regulate voltage to work correctly, and interface with sensors to correctly use them. For example, one of our goals for this year is to navigate to the location of an acoustic pinger using hydrophone input data which requires converting analog audio signals to their digital counterparts. This Analog-to-Digital (ADC) conversion is essential because the processor can’t naturally parse through analog signals. The use of a PCB allows us to have a modular attachment to perform this conversion which we can attach to our main compute units.

Our most recent PCB design is for motor management. Right now, on our sub, we have a “rat’s nest” of wires going to/from our eight thruster motors, eight ESCs, and power rails. We’ve designed the board below to simplify our wiring so we can solely connect the thrusters, battery, and ESCs to this board, and, thus, have limited extra wiring outside of it. Each of these boards supports two thrusters, so we plan to have two stacks of two boards. Since the ESCs can draw up to 30A, we needed to make the traces thick and tall (8oz copper weight and 200mil wide).

PCB design has been an integral part of our sub as well as an important skill our team members have learned. Framing the design problems we face in the context of naval technology broadens members’ knowledge in a way that they may not be able to through their class curriculum. Past members have also substantiated the value of their experiences on the team for interviews and internships. We’re glad PCBWay is supporting us, able to manufacture such a board, and furthering the development of our teams' engineers!

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Mar 18,2024
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